Macbook Pro 2017 Thoughts

As a long time Apple user and Apple fanboy, this review may be very biased…

Ever since completing uni back in 2016 I have thought that it was time to upgrade my 13 inch 2014 retina macbook to the 15 inch model mostly because I thought the 13 inch screen was starting to be a bit too restricting and switching between a low resolution external monitor display and   the retina display was very bothering. I was a bit disappointed when the new macbook design was released in 2016 mainly due to the unnecessarily large trackpad and the various issues that plagued it since its release. I was seriously considering the Dell XPS 15 but was concerned about the battery life with the 4k display but also didn’t feel like going back to a 1080p monitor since using retina displays for so long. Furthermore, I wasn’t a big fan on the dual modality of Windows since Windows 8. So after careful consideration I recently bought the 2017 15inch base model Macbook Pro for almost $1000 off rrp!

So I have used the Macbook Pro for about two weeks now and here are some of my thoughts in comparison to the last generation model in no particular order…

  • The chassis is very slim but I do feel it has a bit of compromise with build quality especially when I grip the macbook from the hinge when moving it so I also had to get a plastic case to increase its rigidity and protect the finish.
  • The keyboard is rather shallow but it took me about a day to get used to it and I can type as fast as I did on my old macbook so it doesn’t bother me.
  • I quite frankly can not tell the difference between the old retina monitor and the new one but they are equally nice to view.
  • The trackpad is ridiculously large but still a pleasure to use and has not affected my typing at all, although I do type with my right wrist lifted and my left palm does occasionally bump onto the trackpad but it does not move the mouse about.
  • I do find the the touchbar useful particularly the screen shot button and being able to scroll through video even when they are in picture in picture mode, but the touch id is not so useful because so far I can only use it to unlock from sleep but can not use it to buy apps from the mac store nor gain super user privileges in terminal.
  • Only having usb-c ports hasn’t been quite an issue as a matter of fact its been pretty nice because I can potentially use around 8 or more usb ports through various dongles.
  • There has been an issue with some dongles interrupting wifi when plugged in. This is a known issue which I have unfortunately encountered but thankfully its not a big issue as it seems to only be caused by third party dongles when connected to the left side ports as they are closer to the wifi card and have bad shielding. After a bit of research, it is known that this only affects the macbook when connected to a 2.4ghz network so switching over to a 5ghz network stops the problem. Using a dongle which has a cord in it and wrapping it in aluminium foil or connecting the dongles to the right side solves the problems I had completely.
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Adding Audio Airplay to OSMC

After setting up OSMC on my raspberry pi, it has always bothered me that the airplay functionalities were rather flaky, it would work with my macbook but not with my iOS devices. Fortunately, a bit of scouring the web led me to here which would add airplay features to OSMC. The setup instructions are rather straight forward so I won’t bother repeating it.

Connecting Microsoft Kinect To Mac

For the second part of my thesis, after messing around with various background subtraction algorithms in in openCV, I thought about what else I could do to add some value to this open ended research. I managed to get my hands on a Microsoft Kinect Camera which incorporated a normal camera and an infra-red camera.

The first issue I had, the Microsoft Kinect Camera I got wasn’t the developer version and it had a proprietary connector which doesn’t connect straight to a usb port. Good thing in this modern age is finding cheap adapters off ebay, but cheap sometimes also means waiting a while before I got the adapter and sometimes they don’t work… Fortunately, it wasn’t a complete waste as I needed part of the cable and following this guide I managed to make my own complete adapter.

The second issue was that I was trying to use the Kinect camera in MacOS with Python so it wasn’t natively supported as it would under Windows, but fortunately, the Libfreenect library provided drivers and wrappers to use make the Kinect work. Simply downloading the directory and navigating to the python folder in the wrappers folder and installing the files with

python setup.py install

To ensure that it is installed,

pip list

If libfreenect is listed then it is installed.

Setting Up OSMC Part 3: Extra Step For Retro Gamers

This step isn’t necessary unless you want to turn your Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming emulator. The first thing to do of course is to get a gaming controller. The one I got works fairly well but there are plenty others available on ebay. Funguypro at instructables.com has already written a pretty comprehensive tutorial on installing the software needed, but I will elaborate on the ssh part.

To ssh into your raspberry pi, you need an ssh-client, this can be using terminal on MacOS or from putty on Windows.

How To Control Your Kodi System

One of the fabulous features of Kodi is how easy it is to control wirelessly. You can control it with a usb keyboard or mouse or even a gamepad, and if its connected to a tv display, then the remote control works just fine!If however, you would like to control your kodi system from the comforts of your couch or bed, wireless communication would be necessary. Here are the two of the easiest ways to connect to your kodi system and control the user interface. Continue reading “How To Control Your Kodi System”

Setting Up OSMC Part 2: The perfect KODI solution for Asian Drama lovers.

So I’ve already setup my osmc the way I want it but here is a simple guide incase I forget, not that it was hard anyway. The latest version of osmc at the time was based on kodi 17.1

  • download the osmc image from here and follow the installation guide, remember to use an sd card larger than 8gb.
  • once osmc has booted up, it may take a little longer on the first time, the first thing I always do whenever I have a new device is go through all the settings. By default, most the settings will work just fine but some settings to change:
    • Interface->Skin->Fonts to Arial which enables foreign characters to be displayed ( at least chinese characters will)
    • System->Audio->Audio output device to Analogue if you dont want to run audio through hdmi
  • The most important step is to install addons to enable certain channels. The procedure is the same for installing all addons.
    • Go to Settings->File Manager->Add Source to add a new repository or simply download the installations files and connect to the raspberry pi through usb.
    • Go to Settings->Add-on Browser->Install from zip file, and select the zip file in the newly added source.
    • Go to Settings->Add-on Browser->Install from repository and select the addons you want from the different repositories you have installed.

The following kodi repositories will basically have all the necessary addons for any asian media fans!

Setting Up OSMC Part 1: Why use OSMC

Best way of repurposing my raspberry pi

Having transitioned to using a laptop for my main computer, my 7 year old pc no longer has any purpose except for serving as a home media center. However, despite its rather obsolete hardware for today’s standards, it still seems too much of a waste of its capabilities to just use it as a media center, not to mention it isn’t very power efficient when I wanted to leave it on all the the time.

Continue reading “Setting Up OSMC Part 1: Why use OSMC”